Latin American Politics and Society

Uneven States, Unequal Societies, and Democracy’s Unfulfilled Promises: Citizenship Rights in Chile and Contemporary Latin America


Juan Pablo Luna

Rodrigo M. Medel


In contemporary Latin America, deep-seated social discontent with political elites and institutions has been, paradoxically, the counterpart of democratic stability and resilience. This paradox suggests that scholarly assessments of democracy are, at least partially, at odds with citizens’ own views of democracy. This article thus develops a framework to describe citizens’ everyday experience with civil, political, and social entitlements associated with democracy. It introduces the framework by analyzing the structural underpinnings of democratic discontent in Chile and then applying it to the analysis of perceived citizenship entitlements in 18 countries, using the AmericasBarometer data. Significant variance is observed across time and both across and within countries. The descriptive findings also imply that only a (declining) minority of Latin American citizens feel fully entitled to civil, political, and social citizenship rights. We advocate the need to bring the demand side of democracy back to the analysis of democratic shortcomings and crises.